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A Lazy Revolutionary War Doctor, Departing From His Life of Leisure, Reports on “Lord” Stirling’s Failed Attempt On Staten Island
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Available as part of The Alexander Hamilton Collection

Fellow physician John Vickers gives Dr. Craigie a nearly instantaneous account of Lord Stirling’s ill-fated attack on Staten Island of Jan 15-16, 1780. Stirling’s campaign was designed to surprise the British troops in their winter camp; the British were alerted, however, and were well fortified by the time the Americans arrived. Vickers also decries plundering of the island by Continental troops.

SAMUEL VICKERS. Autograph Letter Signed “S. Vickers,” to Andrew Craigie. Cranburry, N.J., January 17, 1780. 2 pp., 8½ x 12¼ in. We believe the docketing to incorrectly identify the sender as John Vicker.

Inventory #23414      


“Dear Craigie,

I have defered [sic] writing to you according to my promise, because I was in some expectation of spending the winter in Philadelphia; but the badness of the weather has detained me so long, that I have chose to defer my intention to the next year. I am really affriad [sic] you will esteem this excuse for my omission to be a mea evasion [my evasion], & to amount ad nihil [to nothing]; & therefore I will endeavor to procure a remission for this negligence by a frank confession—I have been for these three or four weeks downright lazy, & for the only & worse reason in the world, I have had more leisure on my hands, than I know what to do with it. However notwithstanding the inclination I feel to be lazy, I have laid myself this day under a penance of writing to all my acquaintance—

Lord Stirling has just returned from his expedition against Staten Island. He has brought off a few of the inhabitants, some cattle and destroyed a few vessels. It seems he failed in taking the Fort which I believe was his intention from the great quality of snow which surrounded it and hindered his approaches. A party of our militia, who followed after the Continental Troops have surpassed the Hessians in plundering the Inhabitants; many of whom they have stripped of all their property. This conduct has so invited the indignation of the more worthy part of their Citizens that all their plunder which was found with them has been taken away and I expect it will be returned again to its owners on the Island.- I shall set off in a few days for Albany, where I hope since I have opened the preliminaries a Treaty of amity & Correspondence will be established between us on your part. Please present my Compliments to Dr. Glentworth.”

Samuel Vickers (?-1793) of Middlesex County, New Jersey, attended Rutgers University and was reported to have witnessed the university’s first commencement when he was a senior in 1774. Various Rutgers histories refer to this report and offer a date range of 1775-1783 as his year of graduation. Nevertheless, on April 14, 1777, he enlisted in New Jersey as a surgeon’s mate, and later served as a surgeon during the Revolutionary War.

Andrew Craigie, Jr. (1754-1819) of Boston was apothecary of Massachusetts troops where he tended to the wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill. After being introduced to Samuel Adams, he came to George Washington’s attention and in 1777 was named the first Apothecary General of the Continental Army. Craigie was instrumental in procuring medical supplies and delivered portable medicine chests to the army. After the war, he began speculating by purchasing state debts via an insider arrangement of dubious ethical standing which did not appear to bother him in the least. He also engaged in land speculation in the Ohio valley. Further, he secretly purchased land on Lechmere Point in Boston, which he developed. All this made him a rich man, and he spent his money on a Boston mansion that soon “became a center of society.”  His biographer asserted that Craigie “entertained without regard to expense...kept dozens of servants and well stocked stables and wine cellars...[had] weekly dinners, great garden parties, especially at [Harvard’s] Commencement season, and dances where the beauty and gallantry of the Greater Boston of the time held unprecedented sway.” Ultimately, extravagance and speculation ruined him, and to avoid debtor’s prison, he sequestered himself in his mansion where he died.  

William Alexander (1726-1783) was born in New York City, claimed the disputed title Lord Stirling, and established himself with the trappings of a Scottish lord in New Jersey. At the outset of the American Revolution, he was named a colonel in the New Jersey militia and in March 1776 he was named brigadier general in the Continental Army and participated in the Battles of Long Island, Trenton, Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth.

George Glentworth (1735-1792) was a Philadelphia physician who served as a surgeon in the British army during the French and Indian War and in 1777 as regimental surgeon for Continental troops.  He was appointed senior surgeon in the Middle Division of the Continental army and later became director-general of hospitals for the Middle Division.


Toned, mounted to paper surround; exhibits a handful of closed tears, done with archival mending tissue as well as with several pieces of tape (old) (see scan).


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